Faking Soft Shadowes

This tutorial demonstrates how to fake soft shadowes in Max. It requires Normalize Spline and the Path Control Utility. Since it uses many spot lights to simulate one it requires a hefty machine and a fair amount of memory. It basically take lots of spot lights and distributes them along a helical, by doing this you are distibuting the light across an area instead of at point which softens the shadowes. You can download the sample file here.
How To

In the Front view create Helix with a radius1 of 100, radius2 of 0, height of 0, and 4 turns. Assign an Normalize Spline modifier with a Seg Length of 5 to it.

In the Top view create a target spot light starting at the center of the helix going up 500 units.

Back in the front view create 2 Dummy objects and center them on the Spot Lights emitter and target and then link the emitter and target to them respectively. The reason for creating them in the front view is that we are later going to use a path controller which uses the Z axis for alignment.

You should have something looking like the image to the left.

Select the Dummy centered on the emitter and go into the Motion panel and assign a Path controller to it. Assign the helix as the follow path. Open up the track view and find the Percent controller for it and delete the second key so you don't have any animation.

Now select the Spot Light's emitter and the Dummy centered on it and make 20 Instances of them.

Now select the 20 Dummy instances and go into the Utility panel and open up the Path Control utility. Turn on the Open Path check box and hit the Pick Objects and apply it to the 20 Dummies. You should now have all the Spot Lights distributed across the helix spline.

Select the Helix spline and go into the Motion panel and assign a Look At controller to it. Assign the Dummy centered on the light targets as the Look At target. Now when you move the helix it should point at the target.

Now select one of the Spot Lights and set the Multiplier to 0.05 so you don't over saturate the scene. Turn on Cast Shadowes and set it to Shadow Maps. Now create some geometry and move the Spot Lights by moving the Helix spline and the Dummy centered target.

You now have s soft shadowed spot light. You can control the the focus of the light by adjusting the helix radius. If you encounter artifacting such as edging you can increase the number of spot lights in the system.

Last updated Oct 25, 1997